The Best Diet for Preventing Obesity in Cats

Diet plays a huge role in the health and longevity of your cat. Feeding her the way nature intended helps prevent obesity and other health problems.

Cats are not small dogs. This is especially true when it comes to feeding them. This article looks at the type of diet cats have evolved to eat, feeding problems that lead to obesity and other issues, and how to help keep your cat lean and healthy throughout her life.


Feeding cats a diet that’s as close as possible to what they evolved to eat is just common sense. But science doesn’t rely on common sense, so someone had to do a study about it. At last, the dietary composition preferred by cats has been discovered!

It turns out that cats choose foods that most closely mimic their natural prey: about 55% protein, 40% fat, and 5% carbohydrate on a dry matter basis. This is approximately the same composition as a can of kitten food, or a well-formulated homemade or raw diet. It is also closely in line with the diet of feral cats.

Nevertheless, despite our best efforts, there is no way we can actually recreate a mouse, because one very crucial part is missing: blood. Blood is made up of plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Red blood cells are high in protein, iron, and lipids. Plasma is mostly water, but the solid portion contains proteins such as albumin, globulins, and clotting factors; amino acids like taurine and lysine; and 1% mineral salts, sugars, fats, hormones, and vitamins. Environmental enrichment, interactive play, and reduced overall caloric intake will help keep cats mentally and physically fit.

When a cat kills a mouse, she eats the whole thing, including the blood. When an animal is slaughtered for consumption, the first thing that happens is that the blood is drained out of the carcass. The blood is retained, dried, and used for various purposes, such as fertilizer or feed for fish, poultry, and cattle. But by then, it has lost its energetic life force, and is no more than a protein supplement. There is just no way to recapture that lost vitality.


“Chonky” cats have become quite popular on social media. The latest estimate is that 60% of adult cats are overweight or obese. This can lead to many serious conditions such as arthritis, chronic vomiting and/or diarrhea, allergies, diabetes, skin disease, feline lower urinary tract signs (LUTS), hepatic lipidosis, cancer, and immune system, heart, liver and kidney issues. Preventing obesity is much easier than treating it. Several factors combine to thwart our goals for healthy cats:

Decreased metabolic need after neutering

It’s estimated that neutered adults need 25% to 30% fewer calories than intact cats. Those hormones preserve lean muscle and keep activity high. Add to this a less-than-stimulating environment, and there’s the recipe for a fat cat! Environmental enrichment, interactive play, and reduced overall caloric intake (starting as early in life as possible) will help keep cats mentally and physically fit.

Excess carbohydrates

Most commercial dry cat foods are 30% to 50% carbohydrate. Cats have zero physiologic need for carbs. Dietary carbohydrate that is not stored as muscle glycogen or used for immediate energy needs is stored as fat. High-fiber weight loss diets increase dehydration and reduce protein digestibility. The loss of lean body mass and reduced basal metabolic rate that occurs with weight loss make it more likely the cat will stop losing weight — or even regain it — even on the same reduced-calorie food.

Constant food availability

Cats are not — and should not be — grazing animals. Too many people not only feed poor quality dry food, but leave it out around the clock, every day. A hunting cat will kill eight or nine mice in a 24-hour period, so multiple small meals makes some sense. But cats who are allowed constant access to dry food eat 15 to 20 times per day, and gain weight as a result.


Feed your cat a high-protein, high-moisture, very low-carbohydrate food. Cats eating such a diet — which is similar in composition to prey — are less liable to gain excess weight. If they need to lose weight, this diet helps them retain lean body mass.

Feed your cat in timed meals; if possible, feed more frequent small meals. Food should be provided for 30 to 60 minutes at a time, and removed at all other times. Most people can accommodate a three-meal-a-day schedule for their cats: morning, after school or work, and before bed. A good interactive play session followed by the evening meal also helps cats who tend to get the 4am zoomies or want breakfast at the crack of dawn to sleep through the night.

Educating yourself about the type of diet cats have evolved to eat, and providing high-protein, low-carb foods to your feline friend will help her lose weight if she needs to. Even if she isn’t overweight, this type of diet will help keep her lean and healthy

Jean Hofve, DVM, earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at Colorado State University. In addition to conventional veterinary training, she studied veterinary homeopathy, homotoxicology, Reiki, and other holistic modalities. She has researched pet food and feline nutrition for nearly two decades, and is an expert on holistic pet health and the commercial pet food industry. She is an official advisor to AAFCO, the organization that sets pet food rules and standards in the U.S. and Canada. Dr. Hofve co-authored the book Holistic Cat Care.


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